Like so many other progressive bands, in the tale of the tortoise and the hare, Between The Buried And Me (BTBAM) definitely take on the role of the tortoise. With every album the band seem to grow in both ability and ambition, taking them from a very understated beginning, to a point now where they are producing some of the most unique progressive metal within the mainstream eye.
BTBAM’s seventh studio album, Coma Ecliptic, was released last month and once again the band have managed to push their songwriting even further to ensure their continual rise to the peak of progressive music. Coma Ecliptic is a musical feast, featuring the expected complex interplay between guitars, keyboards, bass and drums, taking the ideas of Dream Theater and injecting them with even more ferocity and pace.
However, Coma Ecliptic is arguably the most mature record BTBAM have recorded to date. There is a notable step away from the once-dominant death metal elements, allowing the full extent of their progressive side to be heard. The biggest change on this front is the reduction of death metal screams provided by vocalist Tommy Giles Rogers, as he has begun to experiment with his clean voice. On Dim Ignition Rogers utilises a bizarre hoarse drone vocal technique, whilst the incredibly catchy verses of The Ectopic Stroll experiment with a maddened scat-style, taking on a character from the concept that permeates the record.
However it’s not just the vocals that are showcasing creativity. Musically Coma Ecliptic is very diverse, with industrial-inspired chopped synths on Dim Ignition, sharp stabs of orchestral melody on Turn on the Darkness, schizophrenic piano playing on The Ectopic Stroll and a 1970s prog styled organ interlude on Memory Palace, all adding to their unique progressive metal sound.
Both of these elements help to create a very accessible record. Although at eight minutes long, Rapid Calm is the most mainstream-appealing song on the record, with a central keyboard melody, predominately clean singing and a supremely addictive outro. Similarly Memory Palace is more concerned with guitar riffs and progressive ideas than death metal complexity, keeping it very much accessible despite its ten minute run time.
BTBAM have managed to create an album that caters for a whole spectrum of fans. There is enough death metal elements, like the frantic styling of Famine Wolf, to please fans of old, but also the introduction of more clean sections and progressive bombast across the record, like those throughout Option Oblivion, will appeal to a new kind of fan; one who will go back through their discography picking out tracks like Informal Gluttony for its melodic choruses and Bloom for its experimentation and bizarre nature. Occasionally there are tracks that achieve all three criteria, like The Coma Machine and King Redeem / Queen Serene. The former is a sprawling epic, whilst the latter juxtaposes a pristine acoustic first half with a bellowing second half (that features a fantastic musical hook), all played out over a twisting seven minute arrangement.
Like previous releases Coma Ecliptic is a concept record and, like previous releases, it is notoriously hard to follow, especially during the screamed sections. However, this doesn’t subtract from the overall experience, as the music is the real foundation of the concept and after seventy minutes of full-frontal progressive metal you do feel like you’ve been on a dream-like journey; the opening keyboard lines of intro Node seem like a distant memory as the closing solos of outro Life in Velvet fade away. Overall the sense of time and progression is well executed, despite not quite understanding why the word velvet appears quite so frequently.
BTBAM have come a long way since their self-titled debut in 2002. Although there were signs on predecessor The Parallax II: The Future Sequence, Coma Ecliptic is finally the record which will gain them plaudits for their progressive music outside of the death metal community. Previously their experimentation has been too tightly confined within their death metal brand to be truly accessible to the wider prog fan, but I feel if there was ever an album to get those fans on board, it would be their highly creative and superbly musical seventh studio album.
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